Breckenridge’s River Park pushing ahead with help of state lotto money |

Breckenridge’s River Park pushing ahead with help of state lotto money

Children play on one of the nature-based features at River Park. The park is being designed as a “nature-based environment” with features that are supposed to produces safe, controlled introductions to outdoor elements.
Courtesy of town of Breckenridge

When families are enjoying Breckenridge’s River Park years from now, they might not know $700,000 worth of state lottery money helped pay for the artfully designed, nature-based play space.

The park on Floradora Drive is not yet finished, but the town wrapped up the first phase of the two-part project last fall and plans to start construction of the second phase next year.

River Park has been designed as a “nature-based environment” with elements appropriate for children of all ages. Youngsters will find multiple features at the park that produce safe, controlled introductions to outdoor elements, including the nearby river system, forest, mountains and meadows — along with the rich history of the area — all while they’re at play.

One of the biggest features at the park is the large nature-play playground that’s perfect for children ages 5-12. For anyone familiar with the park, it’s the climbing towers people see as they drive by on Highway 9.

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The idea is that having nature-based features like these can help stimulate children’s imagination, increase their engagement and better connect them with the environment.

“It’s kind of a bridge for younger kids to get into our open-space areas,” said Scott Reid, Breckenridge’s recreation director.

The first phase of the project brought River Park the playground, a pavilion, restrooms, landscaping and a bridge to the Summit County Recpath. The second leg calls for the addition of playground equipment geared toward younger age groups, along with a fishing platform on the Blue River, some grassy areas and potentially a beginner’s Strider bike track.

“We decided this was an important place to have irrigated sod because it is a place that we feel like is going to get a lot of use” by the families living in nearby workforce units, Reid said.

Native grasses wouldn’t be as durable or useful for activities like kicking a soccer ball around or having a picnic, he added.

“Golfers shouldn’t have all the grass,” joked Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron. “(It’s) good for the kids.”

Bergeron’s joke came Tuesday night as Breckenridge Town Council was paving the way for the second leg of the River Park project by approving a resolution to accept a second round of funding from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, more commonly known as “GOCO.”

In 1992, Colorado voters approved distributing profits from lottery sales to the GOCO, Conservation Trust Fund and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The amount of GOCO funding awarded for the second phase of River Park is the same as what the town got for the first — $350,000 — which brings the total amount of state lottery money that’s been funneled into the park up to $700,000.

And with River Park, Breckenridge now has one of 11 projects in the state honored with a 2019 Starburst Award, which recognizes the excellent use of lottery money on community and conservation projects.

The Starburst Awards are based on creativity, economic and social impacts of a project, and whether the project achieved its goals. Other award winners this year were Cortez, Fruita, Lakewood, Lamar, Pueblo, Castle Rock, Cripple Creek, and the Foothills Park and Recreation District, among others.

Altogether, the 11 projects represent more than $16.2 million worth of lottery funding, said Anne Murphy, Breckenridge’s open space and trails manager.

Murphy has been instrumental in the progress made on River Park, and she said she agrees with the Starburst judges who honored River Park for meeting the project’s original goals.

“Really our goal in designing this park was to have it be both a neighborhood park for the workforce housing that’s going in (on Block 11) and as a destination park for guests,” said Murphy, adding that River Park is in close proximity to Colorado Mountain College’s campus in Breckenridge, the town’s recreation center, Upper Blue Elementary and two childcare facilities.

Murphy said snow fell too early this fall for a proper grand opening ceremony and the town is hoping to celebrate the opening of River Park with an event perhaps sometime in July.

In other business

• Following the direction of Summit County commissioners, Breckenridge council members approved an ordinance on first reading that would allow Class I e-bikes on town-controlled portions of the paved recpath. A similar measure is currently moving at the county level.

• Council approved a resolution adopting the Summit County Climate Action Plan produced by the High Country Conservation Center environmentalist group. The plan calls for a multipronged approach to reduce energy use and cut carbon emissions with specific targets and dates detailed in the plan.

• Council supported a resolution readopting Breckenridge’s comprehensive plan and land use guidelines as the town’s annexation plan. According to the town, state statutes require that annexations run consistent with an annexation plan for a 3-mile area surrounding the town.

• Council also heard presentations and discussed the town’s plans to build a high-speed fiber network, the next steps for workforce housing in Breckenridge, a CDOT highway access plan and usage rates at the Arts District Campus, among other topics.

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